Bellowhead – Matachin

The theme of the album, Matachin, or the sword dance, is indicative of BellowheadÂ’s overarching appeal: they are as English as Morris dancing or the mummersÂ’s play, but also infused with a cosmopolitan sensibility, incorporating traditional music from Spain, Eastern Europe and America, as well as more modern styles such as jazz, musical hall and cabaret. The end-result is difficult to resist, offering a wide-ranging history lesson whilst maintaining a lively buoyancy thanks to the rambunctious brass section.

“Widow’s Curse”, a perilously obscure ballad liberated from the depths of the British Library, is a highpoint, epic in scope, and possessing something of a dark edge. “Trip to Bucharest” channels the spirit of the Romany through a Terpsichorean cello, whilst “Cholera Camp”, a setting of the Kipling poem, exudes a wonky charm in its inebriated despondency: “For we lots o’ quick promotion on ten deaths a day!”

All in all, this is a superb release, and it confirms BellowheadÂ’s place amongst the leading lights of the British folk music scene.

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